Rakuten Eagles

The Eagles are Japan’s newest team, formed after the 2004 season as part of the settlement that ended limited players strikes by keeping the Pacific League at six teams after the Orix Buffaloes were formed from the merger of the Orix BlueWave and Kintetsu Buffaloes. The team won its only pennant in 2013, when Masahiro Tanaka went 24-0 and was named PL MVP.

  • Manager: Hajime Miki, 1st year
  • 2020 Finish: 3rd. Lost to the SoftBank Hawks in the first stage of the PL playoffs.

Former Manager’s record: Yosuke Hiraishi

Prev. 3 yrs(2016-2018)34916018275,3,6

The Eagles have been the step-children of internet shopping magnate Hiroshi Mikitani, who has shown a decided preference for his J-League soccer team, Vissel Kobe and spending on overseas sports.

Prior to the 2018 season, the Eagles hired former southpaw Kazuhisa Ishii to be general manager, citing his connections within the sport in Japan and in the major leagues. A talented but often inattentive player, Ishii on the surface appears to be poorly qualified for the job.

The most noticeable feature of his tenure so far has been to bring in as many former teammates as possible from his time with the Yakult Swallows and Seibu Lions. Including Miki, who managed the Eagles’ Eastern League farm team last year, nine of the organization’s 27 coaches are former teammates or coaches of Ishii’s.

Miki was a longtime coach with the Fighters and Swallows, and in his only managing experience, steered the Eagles farm team to the Eastern League pennant. I’m a fan of promoting the minor league manager, simply because most of them — particularly the pennant winners — have done quite well, often it seems because they know some of the untried guys who played for them on the farm and this gives them more options.

The club has been very active in the free agent market, particularly in snaring former Seibu Lions, top-caliber starting pitcher Takayuki Kishi in 2018 and slugging second baseman Hideto Asamura last year. The club has a host of fleet young outfielders but really no place to play them all, especially with Jabari Blash spending time in right field and producing runs at a high rate.

This year, they brought in former Marines captain, super utility player Daichi Suzuki, and where he plays is going to be a question mark. The Eagles are also hoping left-handed closer Yuki Matsui is able to succeed as a starter, where he failed as a rookie, to give them more options after Kishi and split-finger specialist Takahiro Norimoto at the top of the rotation.

Key players

  • Hiroaki Shimauchi LF
  • Ryosuke Tatsumi CF, RF
  • Ginji Akaminai 1B, 3B — caught 4 innings against Orix on 4/27/2019, threw out only runner trying to steal
  • Hideto Asamura 2B
  • Eigoro Mogi SS, 3B
  • Kazuki Tanaka CF, RF
  • Zelous Wheeler 3B
  • Jabari Blash DH, RF

Strengths and weaknesses

The Eagles were good at getting on base, and for the first half of the season squandered that advantage with some of the worst baserunning imaginable. They were the worst percentage base stealers in either league, and led both leagues in grounding into double plays, while leading the league in strikeouts.

Team Offensive rankings

  • 2nd best in the league: walks, OBP
  • Worst in the league: batters strikeouts and GDP

On defense, the Eagles pitchers didn’t issue a lot of walks, and their fielders were good at turning batted balls into outs, so their opponents’ OBP was second lowest in the league, as was their runs allowed, while they were poor at stopping the running game. So it’s no surprise that they tied with the Fighters for the fewest ground ball double plays in NPB last season with just 82.

Rankings against opponents’ offense

  • 2nd best in the league: runs, doubles, walks, BABiP, OBP
  • Next to worst in the league: stolen bases, SB pct allowed
  • Worst in the league: GDP

The Hawks had some holes in middle relief and in the starting rotation, but their backup closer Yuito Mori led the league in saves.

Other rankings

  • Best the league: wild pitches thrown
  • 2nd best in the league: ERA
  • And… the Eagles were 2nd in relievers used (489) although a good distance behind the Fighters. The Eagles’ 98 sacrifices were 3rd, and they were 4th in intentional walks issued with 18.


Notes: Names in all caps are imported players; names with asterisks still qualify as rookies, hyperlinks are to the player’s English language page.

PosNameNo.Prev years
PYuki Matsui16
PTakayuki Kishi1113
PHiroki Kondo122Non-tendered
PKohei Morihara133
PTakahiro Norimoto147
PHideaki Wakui1615
PTakahiro Shiomi179
PShoma Fujihira193
PTomohiro Anraku205
PYoshinao Kamata218
PKazuhisa Makita227
PHayato Yuge231
PTomohito Sakai283
PYuya Fukui319
PShuichiro Hikiji*391
PKoji Aoyama4114Non-tendered
PDJ JOHNSON4209/21 Purchased from Carp
PShu Sugahara453
PYuki Watanabe*472Non-tendered
PYoma Fukumori*490
PTaisei Tsurusaki*520
PHosei Takata*5337/15 Traded from Giants
PYuhei Takanashi5337/15 Traded to Giants
PSora Suzuki*561
PRyota Takinaka*570
PWataru Karashima5811
PKento Kumabara595Non-tendered
PRyota Ishibashi604
PTomoki Sato*611
PNaoto Nishiguchi*623
PYoshinori Sato6310Non-tendered
PHiroyuki Fukuyama6499/21 Signed from D roster
PKanji Teraoka*681
PShun Ikeda7236/29 Traded from Giants
PYuya Kubo9117Non-tendered
PYudai Mori0167Released 11/30
PYan-Cheng Wang*0170
PTakahide Ikeda1303
PToshiyasu Kimura*1310Released 11/30
PKotaro Seimiya*1350
PYoshiki Norimoto*1360
PShinri Komine*1380
CHikaru Ota21
CTakero Okajima278
CAyatsugu Yamashita299Non-tendered
CYuichi Adachi444
CTakaya Tanaka*5539/30 Purchased from Giants.
CKengo Horiuchi654
CTakahiro Shimotsuma676
CTsuyoshi Ishihara*703
CKei Mizukami*780
CYuto Egawa*1370
IFHiroto Kobukata*00
IFHideto Asamura311
IFEigoro Mogi54
IFKazuya Fujita616
IFDaichi Suzuki78
IFFumiya Kurokawa*240
IFNaoto Watanabe2614Non-tendered
IFGinji Akaminai3314
IFTsuyoshi Yamasaki342
IFYasuhito Uchida366
IFZELOUS WHEELER4056/29 Traded to Giants.
IFYoshiaki Watanabe481
IFItsuki Murabayashi664
IFRyota Yoshimochi*0083Released 11/30
IFYosuke Minami*1290Released 11/30
IFKyoshiro Matsumoto*1330Released 11/30
IFMaaki Yamazaki*1400
IFKiyoharu Sawano*1410
OFLouis Okoye44
OFRyosuke Tatsumi81
OFKazuki Tanaka253
OFHiroaki Shimauchi358
OFMasaki Iwami*382
OFKo Shimozuru468
OFYuya Ogo*511
OFRen Wada547
OFJABARI BLASH691Non-tendered
OFAtsuki Muto*710
OFLuciano Fernando974Non-tendered
OFKazuki Nakamura*1340Released 11/30
OFAkito Tanaka*1502Released 11/30

2019 team data


Eigoro MogiL1416485688616028613557566121.282.358.421.344
Hideto AsamuraR1436355299313926233921193162.263.372.507.374
Ginji AkaminaiL14159052956161241556255258.304.370.382.339
Hiroaki ShimauchiL133585506681452151057345865.287.372.407.348
JABARI BLASHR1285274266611120033952381157.261.397.540.403
ZELOUS WHEELERR117472411531001501967354396.243.320.418.323
Ryosuke Tatsumi*L124369314427212242513339101.229.320.318.291
Yoshiaki Watanabe*L77245218154981126001440.
Kazuki TanakaB5919316022306219372637.
Kengo Horiuchi*L651401226192201300541.
Kazuya FujitaL6113612413324021010716.258.303.339.286
Motohiro ShimaR57131110122350315001320.209.298.336.289
Louis OkoyeR5212211012204031551629.182.242.300.243
Ren WadaR311131077274121100332.252.277.364.279
Hikaru Ota*R55112961021201610723.
Ko ShimozuruR501018812222026011028.250.333.341.308
Toshiaki ImaeR267976721201701316.276.304.342.290
Ayatsugu YamashitaL316660811103500113.183.222.350.249
Yuichi AdachiR21473946102400112.154.190.333.224
Luciano FernandoR16393418100700210.
Yuya Ogo*L22342975201400411.172.273.345.279
Tsuyoshi YamasakiL1630274940124005.333.333.593.400
Itsuki Murabayashi*R4925242210000105.
Naoto WatanabeR1919161100110017.
Itaru Hashimoto111091000001013.000.1000000.070
Tsuyoshi Ishihara*R4770000000005.000.0000000.000
Takayuki KishiR15550000000005.000.0000000.000
Yasuhito UchidaR2520000000020.000.6000000.420
Manabu MimaL25441100000001.
Takumi MiyoshiR17440100011001.
Wataru KarashimaL27330000000002.000.0000000.000
Ryota Ishibashi*L28331000000002.000.0000000.000
Takahiro ShiomiL9220000000001.000.0000000.000
Hirohito Shimai*R10214000001110.000.5000000.350
Kenji TomuraR6110000000000.000.0000000.000
Yuri FurukawaR8110000000001.000.0000000.000
Kenji NishimakiR2110000000001.000.0000000.000


Manabu MimaR25208500.615143 2/3146192411269644.01
Ryota Ishibashi*R28008700.533127 1/311620357160543.82
Wataru KarashimaL27009602.600117 1/311914578459544.14
Takayuki KishiR15003500.37593 2/38012258637373.56
Yuki MatsuiL6800283812.20069 2/34052410717151.94
Takahiro NorimotoR12005500.50068587106727212.78
Kohei MoriharaR640042029.66764473186515141.97
Koji AoyamaR620024016.33353 1/3378183616162.70
Takahiro ShiomiL9003100.75051 1/342694718183.16
ALAN BUSENITZR540043028.57151461204515111.94
FRANK HERRMANNR500053021.62547 1/3315164916163.04
SUNG CHIA-HAOR480032024.60045 1/3342234014112.18
Hayato Yuge*L8113300.50043 1/340593418183.74
Yuri FurukawaR8001200.33338 1/3376213127276.34
Shu SugaharaR9001300.25035 1/3351202119164.08
Yuya FukuiR8003100.75033313242019195.18
Tomohiro AnrakuR9000200.00032 1/3305111922174.73
Yuhei TakanashiL480021014.66731 1/32502341882.30
Yuya KuboR22002102.66722 1/31631114772.82
Yoshinao KamataR5001100.50021 2/3254121513135.40
Fumiya OnoR13000000.00018 2/326351413136.27
Yusuke NishimiyaL140010011.000.00016 1/3180172115147.71
Kenji TomuraR6000000.00015 2/317191515116.32
Hiroki Kondo*R2000200.0009 1/314223998.68
Ryuta KonnoR40010001.000.000913137101010.00
Shoma FujihiraR3000100.0008 2/39476101010.38
Hiroyuki FukuyamaR7000001.0008 2/38014555.19
Kento KumabaraR1000000.0003 1/34133225.40
Kanji Teraoka*R1000000.00036102339.00
Yuki Watanabe*L1000000.00010023000.00
Yoshinori SatoR1000000.00010002000.00

writing & research on Japanese baseball